The state of Utah is claiming more than 28,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine that had been scheduled for use in long-term care facilities and redirecting their delivery to other eligible residents, the state’s health department announced Tuesday.
The Utah Department of Health said in a statement that it — at the direction of Gov. Spencer Cox — is working with national pharmacy chains CVS and Walgreens to shift the assignment of 28,275 doses to the health department, which will distribute them to other vaccine providers.
An initial shipment of 8,775 of the doses arrived in Utah on Monday. The remaining 19,500 doses will be available to be ordered this week, and will be shipped next week, the UDOH statement said. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved the transfer, the statement said.
The doses being transferred will be given to groups already eligible for vaccination, such as school teachers, first responders and people age 70 and older. The statement did not specify which providers or which groups will receive the incoming doses.
The transfer follows statements by Cox last week that the chains, which have federal contracts to vaccinate nursing home residents and staff, had been allocated — both given and scheduled to receive — too many doses.
The reassignments announced Tuesday do not include any doses that had been delivered to the chains in Utah by last week, the statement said. Those doses have been a point of contention between the state and the pharmacies, according to reporting by The Salt Lake Tribune.
Last week and again on Sunday, Cox and health officials asserted that the chains had thousands of doses — 23,235 as of Sunday — that had been delivered to Utah and left unused for more than a week. (They did not specify how many might have been second doses that could not be immediately administered.)
The pharmacies said in statements to The Tribune last week that they did not possess thousands of doses that had gone unused for more than a week.
And in statements Tuesday, they did not address that assertion by state officials.
Instead, the pharmacies both said that orders from long-term care facilities overestimated, at times, the true bed count and number of staffers accepting the vaccine.
Walgreens, according to its statement, is working with states to reallocate excess doses “to achieve the shared goal of vaccinating our most vulnerable populations as quickly as possible.”
The CVS statement said that “if our vaccine allotment is projected to exceed what we may need, we will proactively ask the state to reclaim or defer a portion of that allocation as appropriate.” CVS also said Cox’s decision “helps ensure that these valuable doses will be put to the best use.”
CVS and Walgreens will have enough vaccine on hand for all of their scheduled vaccination clinics at Utah’s long-term care facilities — and residents and staff at those centers will get their vaccinations as planned, the health department said Tuesday.